Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Eeek we're entering!

Entry form submitted - Chester and I are officially entering our first working test on Sunday.

You would think it was the Olympics the way I have been planning what to do until Sunday! not too much in case we over do it, just enough to really brush up on the areas we're not so good at :)

Heelwork - assuming he'll be off lead throughout the whole test I need to make sure this is spot on. No excuses for creeping forward.

Attention on me - think I'll go back a few steps with this one. Walking round the field with him always behind me again. He has to keep looking at me to see where I am heading. Chester's pretty good at not straying too far but this exercise means he's constantly got one eye on me, waiting for our next move. Could be useful in a test :)

Stop whistle - I'll up the reward on this for a few days so he's getting something more times than not when he stops. Need to keep putting it in place when he's busy sniffing around.

Retrieve - lots of exciting retrieves and holds in the house with just a few outside to keep his interest up. My main concern is him dropping the dummy (positive thinking - this WON'T happen!) I'll do a few bits of direction work too but I don't think we'll be asked to do this.

Hunting - will just make sure my cue is really clear and for the next few days he always finds something when he's hunted well.

Water - again, might not be asked to do this. There's never any trouble getting into the water and retrieving, it's just the drop when he comes out.

Moaning - I know this is going to be a problem. Chester is soooooooooo moany. I'm slightly concerned he just won't be quiet when we're sat there waiting. He's so impatient! The slightest hint of a moan over the next few days and it's a spray with water or the pet corrector. I can only hope!

Monday, 27 June 2011


Wow - a busy and hot weekend!

Went to obedience on Saturday which we haven't been to for aaaaaaaaaaages. It showed! Actually, Chester was very good at all the obedience, his stays were really really solid with no sign of movement and heel work good too. We always loose out when we do the distance control of sit and down because I never teach the down command! What did show up was Chester's impatience. Having not been used to just sitting there while other dogs did their thing he was moaning most of the time (we'd never be able to enter Field Trials!). He even let out a massive howl when an ambulance went past! Thanks Chester.

Yesterday was just so hot - we played retrieve in and out of the river to keep cool. I have to watch he doesn't shake when coming out but it's about 1 in every 10 he does that. Our favourite exercise is to throw the ball across the river into the next field. Chester bounds through the water to the other side and searches for the ball. I tried some stops and redirection while he was on the other side of the bank. Nothing amazing but some progress.

Going to the Large Munsterlander working test this Sunday, just to watch but I would love to enter. We'd be in the puppy class which might be our last opportunity at this as we'll be straight into novice next year but just not sure we're ready. I think it's fairly friendly and open so maybe we could get to have a go as the lady said everyone was welcome even if you are only watching. I will be annoyed if I see the standard and we're at the same level and could've entered but on the other hand could get a massive confidence knock if all the dogs are brilliant!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

'Back' Command

Did a little bit on the back command yesterday in the 1:1 so thought I'd try it myself today.

When Chester was ahead of me I put in a stop whistle and then walked past him and threw the dummy fairly far ahead. Walked back, past him again and then commanded him 'back'.

He went ... excellent!

Did a classic Chester drop on the delivery but picked it back up and delivered to hand. It's always a bit tricky to film and get that solid delivery.

I then set up the same scenario but didn't place a dummy - just rubbed my hand over the ground. Same as before he went back on command but then I tried to put in a stop whistle when he got to where I wanted but he ignored it, instead searching around for a dummy I guess. I'll sort of let him off this once as I'm using a different whistle until my new one turns up and his stop hasn't been it's usual 100%. I still think we'll have to work on this bit though.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

1:1 Training

Had a 1:1 session tonight. Did lots of little, different things just to show the areas we need to brush up on.

Heelwork - good but need to get him targeting my leg so he doesn't drift forward when off lead.

Direction work - works well to the left, right and back when retrieving a dummy but he tends to come back towards me if directing him without heading towards a dummy.

Send away - he doesn't really know this at all. Need to get him heading away from me because I command him to rather than just to get a retrieve.

Dummy hold - I'm a bit worried about this as he's chomping down on the dummy and not really ever achieving a good hold. As soon as we mention the words 'hard mouthed' I get a bit worried. Don't really know enough about it, whether he is hard mouthed or just poor training on my part. Advice needed but I've got some things to work on here.

On a positive note he is coming on well and trainer says he thinks he's going to do well next season. I know we'll never enter field trials as he's a moaner and I really just want to get him to a level where he can compete in working tests. I think we're still so far off and can you really do it if you've never trained a gundog before and really didn't start any specific training until he was a year old?!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Chester's starving day

We feed Chester on a BARF diet which he's been on since weaning. He's done well and pretty much eats anything but lately I've noticed he's not so bothered about food and sometimes won't eat a lot in a day.

I read somewhere that some BARF feeders starve their dogs for a day as they would in the wild. It has to be the same day each week (how can dogs tell this?!) so thought we'd give it a go to see if it kicked him into a more regular eating pattern. There's no way my dog is becoming a fussy eater!

Yesterday he exercised and ate loads so a Monday is a perfect day. So far, don't think he's very impressed as he looked longingly at me peeling carrots for the dinner and put in a few moans whilst settling down to sleep this morning. I'll make sure I'm not giving him too much exercise today and tomorrow we'll go back into normal feeding.

Watch this space!

Delivery progress at last!

Been making progress on the delivery of dummies using clicker training. It's got us to the point where he will deliver to hand but I'd like him to sit and present .... so we continue.

I can now put in an 'ah ah' if he drops the dummy before it gets to me and he will pick it back up and deliver to hand. Not ideal for him to drop the first place but he gets the idea that he doesn't get another retrieve until it's safely in my hand. The dropping is becoming less and less.

I wasn't sure how to move this onto a present as if I put in a sit I got an instant drop. Without a retrieve I can get an sit and hold. This morning I did a couple of these and then a retrieve and he bought it back with a present! Only with a tennis ball and the hold wasn't for very long but WE HAVE PROGRESS YEY!

1:1 lesson on Wednesday and I'd like to get a few of these in for the trainer to see.

Group Training 19.06.11

Group training was excellent this week!

We started by doing some memory and blind retrieves. All dogs off lead and working in different areas of the field made for some interesting adventures but generally they all did really well. Chester made a retrieve to the trainer instead of me on one attempt .... doh!

We then did some hunting/quartering practice. Because we've been doing this lots with Chester in the 1:1's we used Chester as a little demo dog (awwww I was proud!) Flat dummy thrown into square about 25yards across so Chester couldn't see. I sent him off to find it, if he went outside the square I put in a stop and sent him off again. He didn't quarter brilliantly (sometimes he needs a bit of gee'ing up to get into the swing of things) but he did find the dummy and bring it back :)

Everyone had a go and I think some ppl were amazed how well their dogs did - even if they hadn't done this exercise before.

To finish on a high note - we all got our certificates of pass for our Level 1 test. Brilliant day!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Progress update

Totally forgot I took a few videos last week to try and track our progress. I always find it a bit hard filming and communicating with Chester in the same way. I think he gets a bit confused sometimes.

We jumped a step ahead in this video as I tried to get Chester to move back on a retrieve. We don't have a command for this so I was using my normal 'away' which is my send off. Clearly he wasn't too sure on the first go! I won't push this exercise until we've build up our seen retrieves.

I know Chester's stopping is really good but I'd like to pick up the time he is asked to wait until the next command so he's sitting steady. I'm not sure one paw in the air counts as steady but we'll work on that!

After all of this we had a bit of a blip where I bent down to pick up a ball and Chester's head hit mine. Result .... massive nose bleed and a trip to A&E! Luckily it wasn't broken, just badly bruised.

Got my dog back :)

Chester's been away for a couple of days on a trial for when we got to Oz in September. He was staying with another Vizsla and a brilliant handler. I think he got up to a bit of mischief but generally was well behaved and had such a fab time.

Took him out this morning and he is super obedient! Must keep up the good work and not let him slip. While he was away I read a 'The Pet Gundog' and it reminded me of a few things I need to ensure I do to keep in check ;)

We've got group training on Sunday so I'd like to see some progress on his retrieves before then.

Didn't take the dummy out this morning but did some good recalls and have started bringing him round to heel afterwards. I think he'll get the hang of that pretty quickly. It'll also help with his sit when I stop as he tends to swing round, sit down and look at me to see what's coming next.

I'll do some garden retrieves today and picking up again with the hold. I've ordered some more dummy including a softer 1lb one as the one we have is like a brick - no wonder he's not keen on picking it up! I might bash it up a bit with a mallet to soften it.

We are attending a water training day on 10th July which I am really looking forward to. Chester is pretty confident in the water and swims well (especially if there's a tennis ball or duck to chase!). What is doesn't like is a deep entry so if we could work on this I will be pleased. There aren't many places to swim near us but I'll ask around and see if anyone can suggest somewhere.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The morning after training ....

Feeling confident, Chester and I went out on our walk this morning. Got into the field where I usually do a stay exercise before letting him off, instead we did some off lead heel work. He's good at this but I just need to pick my pace up, not look at him all the time and get those turns a bit tighter.

We did our usual walk all over the field, putting in some stops and recalls. Went into another field, sat him down, put in a stay and walked away with the dummy. Placed it and returned. I noticed that he looked really steady in his stay so this is definitely improving.

I wanted to make sure he didn't move until he heard my command. I have to watch he doesn't go by me returning, bending down or putting my arm out. I need to do all of that, line him up and then give him the 'away' command. He did a beautiful retrieve and bought it straight back to me. It was perfect so just one for that session.

I then noticed he was on point. I knew straight away it was a duck! Although I had checked the river for ducks we'd walked quite a lot by this point and one had obviously paddled up stream. Chester chased it along the bank for a good few hundred yards, I put in a recall whistle and he returned straight up to me. I slipped his lead on as I wasn't impressed by him chasing and we walked into the next field and did some more off lead heel work.

All was soon forgiven and we had a good game of ball to finish! (I have noticed that he is also dropping the tennis balls into my hand now so really pleased with this).

1:1 Training

Had a great 1:1 training session last night. Chester always seems to be super well behaved in these and his concentration levels are great! I come away feeling a lot more confident and with a new plan for the next couple of weeks.

I mentioned that although his heel work is now FINALLY great on the lead that I really need to pick it up off lead. It's looking good but I'll incorporate this much more into our daily walks.

We then did recall, recall, recall. Really testing him against distractions of the trainer's dog, dummies etc. He did well, so I'll keep this up. He must have also spotted a rabbit in the field next door and did a beautiful point! Not long enough to really steady him but nice to watch :)

Worked some more on our retrieves, really concentrating on him bringing the dummy right into me. This is something I can carry on with at home, inside the house or the garden also perfecting the hold as he's getting old enough not to drag the dummy around by the toggle or the end.

Trainer and I were chatting while Chester was having some off lead time. He'd gone to the other end of the field so I put in the stop whistle. He stopped quickly, turned, sat and looked at me. The trainer put in two pips and tried to cast him off to the side. Although it was slightly to the side, it was more of a return to us so this is definitely something we can work on making sure he is going at right angles when sending him off. I currently only turn him when he is hunting.

We've got about 10 days now until the next group training so I'm really going to work on those retrieves and make sure everything else we already know is spot on.

Monday, 6 June 2011

w.c. 6th June

I think after yesterday's up and down training session it's definitely a continuation with the retrieves this week.

I still believe until you have a seen retrieve and delivery mastered I don't see how you can progress onto anything else?!

We have a 1:1 session on Wednesday so I'd like to try the round the clock exercise again, maybe after we've worked a while and I have Chester's focus on me.

I found on the long retrieves he tends to work better. There's less time to think about what he's doing to do with the dummy and he just runs all the way back to me. On short ones he's more likely to mess around.

I have a short term goal that there is a Herts County Fair at the end of September. I'd like to enter him into the scurry. Watch this space!

Group Training 05/06/11

Went to group training today. As usual, good to see everyone and chat about how we've been getting on and it's only once every two weeks.

Fist exercise was a round the clock dummy retrieve. A few of the dogs in our group did it quite well. A bit more practice needed all round. Chester and I .... RUBBISH!! His mark on the dummies is spot on (he usually points at them!), he run out is also fab, his retrieve .... not so great. He generally ran around in a big circle, even swapped dummies once! Bought a few back, ran off to the other group, stole one of their dummies then decided it was more fun to retrieve a cone! terrible, just terrible ....

It was then time for the group to complete a progress test. Fairly simple, just stage 1 but anything can go wrong (see above!).

Chester and I went up for a practice. Heel work to cone, sit and stay while I walked away and wait for 30 seconds, then recall. All perfect ... yipee!

Two seen retrieves. First one he did a de-tour via the dummy thrower but second one he bought back nicely to me.

Time for the test. By this time, Chester knew there was a retrieve involved so little chance he was going to sit still for 30 seconds! We attempted it but he broke a few times :( Did two lovely retrieves at the end.

Not sure if we actually passed. Maybe if they took into account the practice and the test combined then we'll make it!

Saturday, 4 June 2011

HWVA Training Day

Chester and I went along to the HWVA Training Day today an bravely entered Class 2 'Done a bit but want to know more about working tests'.

Had a bit of a panic that might even be a stretch but the lady said we could drop down to beginners if needed.

I shouldn't have worried as everyone was pretty much to the same standard as us with all sorts of HPRs.

First exercise was a heel off lead, stop the dog, throw the dummy out, walk half way back, stop the dog then send him back for the retrieve.

Chester heeled nicely (surprisingly!), sat to my whistle and stayed steady when I threw the dummy. We heeled back and he stopped again to whistle. Then came my problem - how would I send him back if I haven't taught him that?! Through various hand gestures and all different words he eventually went back and bought the dummy back to my hand. Overall I was pleased with his heelwork and the delivery as it's what we've been working on this week. I should've made sure he marked the dummy when I threw it. I was too busy worrying about making sure he didn't run in.

Second exercise was a heel off lead a lot further, throw the dummy over a small log (effectively hiding it), heel back and send him. The heelwork wasn't as good this time round with a cock of his leg (grrr) but I got him back on track. I was easily able to send him for the dummy as he was sent from heel and we're used to that. On the downside he didn't bring it completely back to me, dropped it just before.

We then had to do a split retrieve. It proved really difficult for everyone with dogs running all over the place, swapping dummies not retrieving etc. I said we'd have a go because even if it went wrong I wanted to practice the stop whistle. Walked to heel over to the left, lay the dummy down, walked back. Dummy thrower shouted from the woods on the right and dropped another dummy. I sent Chester for the left one and he got it. YEY. I then tried to send him for the right one but again because I haven't taught him a command he sort of just wandered off. I put in a stop whistle, he sat and I just recalled him back.

We then went off for a hunt in the forest which I thought he would be good at. He wasn't .....!! I still don't know what I am looking for in hunting/quartering but I knew he wasn't on usual form. The lady said he was just puppy hunting and sniffing around. I agreed and I knew there wasn't the usual enthusiasm. No excuse but by this time it was mid afternoon, we'd been out since 8am and it was pretty hot! However, she asked me to stop my dog. I did, he stopped. She threw a dummy, he was steady and then went in for a retrieve and bought it back to hand. Again, I was pleased with that bit. I did note that we've never really hunted in the woods, it's always in an open field so I need to put some time into this.

Really good day, I learnt loads including it's going to be very difficult to get to working test standard!

Chester got some well deserved chicken wings at the end :)

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Scenting for Beginners!

Armed with a fluffy duck and some pheasant scent Chester and I went on our walk this afternoon.

It was really hot and not much wind so not the best conditions.

Attempt 1 video
Tie Chester up and drag toy duck along the ground working from left to right into the wind. Hide toy duck in grass. I then walked around the area I'd scented back to him and took him off in the opposite direction to distract him a little. Bought him back to the beginning and set him off.
Instead of following the scent he went straight out to the duck and with a bit of sniffing found it. Not exactly what I was hoping for but clearly the handlers fault! The drop at the end isn't ideal either. Again, really my fault as I was too busy recording rather than sticking my hand out and concentrating on bringing him in.

Attempt 2 video
Time for a longer scent trail - there's no way he could run straight to the duck this time! Off we went, he was pretty hot so pace is slow. Also a lot of back scenting. It could be where we'd covered the ground before. There's also a lot of dogs walking the area. Eventually he found it ... then proceeded to show his find to the friendly labrador down the hill!! Third time lucky?!

Attempt 3 video
No scenting this time just a drop of the duck then a long walk back for a memory retrieve. Lovely retrieve and a delivery to hand!! woop woop. That summed up this week's work for me and I was happy :)

A bit of daisy hopping (video) then off home for dinner!

Training Methods/Styles

Something I am just getting to grips with having spent over a year owning Chester is what works for him.

At first I was taking in knowledge from all different sources/trainers etc but now I find it much easier to filter out what will work for us.

For example. I once met with a lady who predominately trained labs. I am sure her training skills were far better than mine but it clearly showed her methods weren't going to work on Chester. With no experience I'll never know whether that is HRPs in general or just my ginger one.

We worked for over an hour trying to get him to complete a retrieve to hand. Bearing in mind he didn't know the 'hold' command. After several attempts he just got bored and went off to do his own thing. He then just became a naughty dog not doing a thing I said! I agree correction is needed but for Chester if it's repeated over and over again, he just doesn't get it and switches off.

What does work for him is really keeping our energy up, always engaging with him and high reward. Yes, he may be leaping around the field but he is constantly fixed on me, excited by what we're going to do next. No, it's not the greatest of control but that will come once the learning is embedded. We are both so much more successful if we keep the pace up, trying different things and will lots of reward.

I think working out what works for you and your dogs is so important although it's taken me 13 months to get there!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

w.c. 30th May

I am dropping the 1:1 session for this week as I think we need longer than a week to work on some of the bits we have learnt and we have a busy weekend coming up with the HWVA Training and group gundog training on Sunday.

At the last 1:1 training we were quartering Chester on a long line, half way through me planting the dummy and then working our way back towards it. I always get a bit tangled with a long line but it is useful once you get the hang of it. He worked with with me as a slight hindrance not quite moving with him. The work we need here is to make sure he isn't back scenting and trying to get him to move further out from left to right before I put in the turn whistle. I have bought a scent stick which may help as I can lay a scent and push him further and further out. We still haven't done anything on this yet out of the 1:1 session.

We also did some long memory retrieves. It was lovely to watch him running back from such a long distance straight to me with the dummy. I still got the drop at the end which isn't ideal. My plan was to work on these memory retrieves and start working on blind retrieves but I really wanted to concentrate on this poor delivery first.

I've now spent the last week training the clicker retrieve. Chester already knew how to work with clicker training as I used it as a pup. Food isn't his greatest motivation but it works just fine if we are indoors or in the garden with little distraction.

So far we're at the stage where he knows the hold command but won't hold it for more than a few seconds and really isn't keen on holding the 1lb dummy so back to the puppy one for a while. He will now deliver to my hand with palm out (I am sitting down)and if he drops it I gave an 'ah ah' an he'll pick it up again. I'll keep working this until we have the hold on delivery until I am ready to take it.

I tried a few retrieves out on our walks but he wasn't haven't any of it! Not even the slightest interest ... typical! I don't blame him as we've been working hard with the dummy on probably 3 short sessions a day. I would be bored of it also! I'm hoping this lack of enthusiasm isn't a permanent thing and once I've trained the delivery we can give it a rest for a while and the enthusiasm will return. There is also a high chance it will return at group training on Sunday and all the delivery training will go out of the window!

For now our walks still include recalls, stops and I have been setting up the scenario for a memory retrieve using a tennis ball (walk to heel off lead, sit, throw ball ahead, dog leaves, walks back at heel, sits, waits for the command and retrieves). I can guarantee he will hold onto a tennis ball so I'm not having to worry too much about delivery here and don't think it's hindering progress.

So it starts .....

Chester is now 13 months (wow ... where did that time go?!) and I have to say I am happy with him as a 'pet' dog but I've always thought we could do more.

From the start we've attended obedience training one weekend and then group gundog training the following week. His obedience has come on really well but the gundog side was always a bit of a disaster. It's shows how everything he's already learnt can go completely down the pan once a few dummies start flying about! However, we've stuck with it and recently I've been able to make some real progress with him. We have now dropped the obedience class and attend the twice monthly group gundog class plus a 1:1 session most weeks.

It's great having people to share knowledge with and chat about the progress (good and bad) of our dogs and I think it's really helped push me on.

So ..... our objective. Working Tests EEEEK! Even if we never enter them I would like to know we tried our very hardest and put all the training in place so we have a good chance. I'd also like to take him on a real shoot as I think he'll really come into his own but I have zero experience so that is on a definite back shelf for now.

This is where we're currently at:

Heel Work - after 13 hard months Chester finally walks on a lose lead 95% of the time. Things that stop him doing this are usually dogs ahead of him (walking in the same direction). He will also walk to heel off lead and understands the command but this still needs working on.

Recall - This is also good and has improved so much over the last couple of months (mostly since I realised you need a good recall for a good retrieve!). We keep working on this, calling away from distractions etc.

Stop Whistle - I consider this our finest achievement! Chester will stop and sit 100% of the time to the whistle. He'll also do it very fast. This is mostly because he thinks he's going to get a tennis ball thrown in his direction but it works!

Retrieve - Chester has no problem going out to any object but bringing it back is always a struggle. We've alternated between running up to me then darting off in another direction, doing a victory lap and now dropping it about 1m from me feet. More on this in another entry.

Pointing - I haven't trained this at all (must look up how) but Chester will point and hold the point on pretty much everything that isn't moving v quickly. Usually a bird. We don't get a lot of practice as most birds fly off before we get a chance to get close but the local stalk provides a good pointing lesson most mornings.

Quartering - I recently discovered 1.) what quartering was and 2.) that Chester was already doing this we just had to refine it. I haven't spent a lot of time on this but he will move from left to right in front of me and turn to my whistle. Again, it's usually in the hope of finding the sacred tennis ball!

Hunting - If you call it sniffing the ground on a permanent basis when I use the cue word 'find it' then yes we can hunt. We definitely don't know how to do it properly but I do know that if I say the command then he will keep on searching until the object is found (even if he doesn't know what it is!). I am sure this will need some work at a later stage.

So that's where we're pretty much up to 13 months in. I'm hoping by recording our training that I will be able to see some progress :)